Friday, August 15, 2014

3d Cir.: Availability of Classwide Arbitration is for the Court

I'm not gonna lie - posts about the technical procedure for interpreting arbitration agreements are not exactly my most popular. But these issues are important, and often employment-law-related.

The Third Circuit recently issued a precedential decision in this area in Opalinski v. Robert Half International, Inc. (opinion here).Thank you to Judge Ambro for the concise intro, including the issue and holding (it makes my life as a blogger so much easier):
We consider whether a district court, rather than an arbitrator, should decide if an agreement to arbitrate disputes between the parties to that agreement also authorizes classwide arbitration. Because of the fundamental differences between classwide and individual arbitration, and the consequences of proceeding with one rather than the other, we hold that the availability of classwide arbitration is a substantive “question of arbitrability” to be decided by a court absent clear agreement otherwise.
This was a FLSA case, so employers take note. Also, if your arbitration agreements are - in the words of the Court - "absent clear agreement" regarding classwide arbitration, then you may wish to rectify the situation.